Assessor says 50 properties in Kiryas Joel likely to go on tax roll

Times Herald-Record, New York/June 15, 2010

Kiryas Joel - A shopping center, a five-story office building and dozens of other Kiryas Joel properties could lose at least part of their property-tax exemptions as the result of a crackdown by the Town of Monroe assessor's office.

Fifty parcels with a combined market value of nearly $52 million have been tentatively placed on the town tax rolls and will get their first bills for town and county taxes come January unless they prove their exemptions were warranted.

The properties range widely in value and include homes that claimed exemption as synagogues; apartment complexes for low-income tenants; and the village's two most conspicuous commercial centers: its bustling shopping strip on Forest Road and the 80,000-square-foot Business Center that opened on Bakertown Road in 2008.

The strip mall has never been taxed since it opened in 1987 because its owners were deemed exempt. The village government owned the property for years until transferring it in 2004 to a real estate arm of the United Talmudical Academy, the religious school system for thousands of children in the Satmar Hasidic community.

But under state law, only the parts of the shopping center used for an exempt purpose - such as municipal offices - should have been tax-free. Dorothy Post, the town's longtime assessor, was reconsidering exemptions for that and other Kiryas Joel parcels until her retirement in March, when the job fell to her successor, Stephen Ruelke.

Ruelke made 50 village properties fully taxable on the May 1 tentative tax rolls, but he has said that he may recommend restoring part or all of the exemption on certain properties before July 1 after getting more information about how they are used. He said he didn't have time to do such investigations before the tentative tax roll was due.

The United Talmudical Academy offshoots that own the shopping center and office building have filed grievances with the town Board of Assessment Review, saying that both properties should be fully exempt because the owners are nonprofit organizations. They claim the buildings are being used for community service.

Some property owners may have a strong case to restore their exemptions. One is the rabbi and Satmar leader Aaron Teitelbaum, whose Sanz Court home - owned by Congregation Avnei Zedek - was placed on the tax rolls. Another is the Kiryas Joel Municipal Local Development Corp., owner of a nursery school on Kosnitz Road.

Other cases may prove trickier to resolve. For instance, the Head Start building on Kahan Drive appears eligible for exemption, except that its owner, Dachrisly Realty Corp., is a for-profit business that supposedly dissolved 12 years ago, according to state Department of State records.

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